Why Most of Your Projects Suck and How to Un-Suck Them

July 26, 2017

Tracey Kidder said, “Building is the quintessential act of civilization.”  Think about it.  If three people washed up on a deserted island, the first thing they would do is collaboratively build a shelter.  Unless, of course, the three people were an architect, owner’s rep, and contractor.  Then, they would have to wait for two lawyers to wash up on the beach so that they could proceed with the project.

There is a project that I read about recently where the parties involved hate each other. I don’t say that lightly.  You can tell from their comments that they truly loathe and despise each other.  Here is a link to the ENR article titled  A Hospital Job Dispute Reaches Fever Pitch:

http://enr.construction.com/business_management/project_delivery/2015/0918-A-Hospital-Job-Dispute-Reaches-Fever-Pitch.asp

How did this project get to this point?  Could the parties involved have seen this coming?  How did they begin the project, and more importantly, what can you do on your projects to avoid such a fate? There is a link to a white paper and other resources at the end of this blog, but here is a recap:

Step 1: Get as many people involved in the process as soon as possible from owners to facilities folks to end users designers to contractors to trade partners to materials vendors. Get them in a big room.  Build a sense of team and trust and collaboration.  Note:  This cannot be done in a day.  One day “partnering” sessions are a waste of everyone’s time and energy. Lean, IPD, ILPD Design-Build, and other collaborative project delivery methods are perfect for having a framework to achieve this.  Forget IPD-ish.  Just do it!

Step 2:  Make this focus on team, relationships and trust ongoing.  Every meeting should start with the team stuff.  Bring folks in to reinforce team and collaboration and communication and trust throughout the entire project from inception to demolition.

Step 3:  Give everyone tools in order for them to achieve their peak level of mental, physical, and emotional performance.  Think about it.  We throw people in a big pot that has high stakes and crushing stress without any tools and expect them to perform like a well-oiled machine. This is ludicrous.  And they don’t get enough sleep, eat crappy food, and have really poor health habits during a demanding project.  As part of your ongoing team building, have discussions about stress and nutrition and sleep and other things that will inhibit performance.  Give them the tools they need to succeed.  It also creates a sense of connection and team because everyone is looking out for each other and their well-being.

If you want more free information and resources, download my white paper that includes two of my bestselling books and another white paper on how to build the people before you build the project.  It will give you the tools you need to make your next project a huge success!  Click here to download the white paper.  

And if you want even more resources on emotional intelligence and all of the critical people skills your folks need to succeed, click here  for information on our online courses called The Total Leadership Library.


Emotional Intelligence Questions Answered Part 2

February 6, 2017

construction problems

Is there a correlation between emotional intelligence and performance?

I facilitated a program for a top 100 contractor based in the southern United States using emotional intelligence as a foundation for leadership development. After the managers were evaluated, I ranked their interpersonal scores (empathy, social responsibility, and interpersonal relationship skills) from the highest to the lowest. This company had their own ranking system in order to identify their star performers, the ones who contributed most to the success of the company. The astonishing fact was that the company’s overall ranking and the ranking of interpersonal skills correlated almost one-to-one. This told us that the managers who had the best interpersonal skills were also the company’s stars. They were the managers involved in the most profitable projects who contributed the most to the company’s bottom line.

Multi-Health Systems has a program called Star Performer where companies look at the EQ-i® profiles of their star performers for particular departments or positions and determine with statistical accuracy which emotional competencies are essential for high performance. Then it is just a matter of recruiting, hiring, and training for those competencies. The drawback to this approach is in the performance criteria, which must be objective. For sales, performance is objective and clear. For project managers, it is less clear. You may have a high performer that loses $100,000 on a project that would have lost $1 million. Or you may have a low performer that makes $500,000 on a project that was supposed to make $1 million.

But if you can decide on some fairly objective performance criteria, it soon becomes clear which emotional competencies are required for that level of performance.  And think about where the industry is going.  Project delivery methods are moving toward more collaborative environments:  IPD, ILPD, LEAN, Design Build, Design Assist.  With these more collaborative methods, it takes a different set up skills to be successful. According to a recent ENR article, the Construction Industry Institute recently did a study and found that “working relationships and team dynamics have emerged as the leading variables affecting the cost and schedule of industrial projects, according to a research report from the Construction Industry Institute.  If you want a high level of performance on your projects, perhaps it is time to start paying attention to your project teams’ emotional intelligence.


Why Project Relationships Go Horribly Wrong and How to Prevent it

June 7, 2016

a skyscraper with glass walls and the reflection of landmarks on the opposite side

“Building is the quintessential act of civilization.” Tracy Kidder

Think about it.  If three people washed up on a deserted island, the first thing they would do is collaboratively build a shelter.  Unless, of course, the three people were an architect, owner’s rep, and contractor.  Then, they would have to wait for two lawyers to wash up on the beach so that they could proceed with the project.

There is a project that I read about recently where the parties involved hate each other. I don’t say that lightly.  You can tell from their comments that they truly loathe and despise each other.  Here is a link to the ENR article titled  A Hospital Job Dispute Reaches Fever Pitch:

http://enr.construction.com/business_management/project_delivery/2015/0918-A-Hospital-Job-Dispute-Reaches-Fever-Pitch.asp

How did this project get to this point?  Could the parties involved have seen this coming?  How did they begin the project, and more importantly, what can you do on your projects to avoid such a fate?

We have created a program called connEx, which creates high performing teams who care about each other’s personal and professional success and well-being.  Click here for more information.


The Construction Industry is Finally Focusing on People!

April 23, 2015

Improve soft skills

“Emotional intelligence emerges as a much stronger predictor of who will be most successful because it is how we handle ourselves in our relationships that determines how well we do once we are in a given job.” Daniel Goleman

 

 

Okay, by now most of you know that emotional intelligence is my thing.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not the ONLY thing.  I’m not a hammer looking for a nail in everything that I see.  There are other things that make people and projects successful.  Things like technical knowledge, education, experience, creativity, innovation, and a resourceful project team among many others.  All I am saying is that we have become so automated with how we market, bid or negotiate, budget, schedule, and build that this people thing seems to be the only thing left that can be dramatically improved.  It’s the final frontier.  And ask yourself a question:  Are most problems on a project process related or people related?  Everyone knows the answer to that one.  Even safety, quality, and productivity have much more to do with relationships and motivation than some technical procedure that someone doesn’t follow.

I attended Penn State’s PACE Conference this week.  PACE stand for Partnership for Achieving Construction Excellence.  It’s a consortium of students, faculty, and industry.  And the amazing things is that EVERY SINGLE PRESENTATION talked about soft skills, emotional intelligence, trust, collaboration, and all of those things that 13 years ago, when I started my business were WAY out there.  I guess I was just a little early.  I imagine 13 years ago, the focus was mostly on technical subjects and research.

From strictly a business point of view, think of emotional intelligence as a differentiator.  Most contractors and engineers have the same reputation, the same brand identity, and the same marketing.  They are reliable, responsible, technically excellent, and they can execute a project like nobody’s business.  But it seems to me that everyone is bringing that to the table.  Contractors get the same vendor and subcontractor and material prices so there is no competitive advantage there.  So what is your competitive advantage?  It’s your people.  Period.  And it’s not their technical expertise or experience.  That is an expectation.  That is the price of entry.  What owners are looking for are people who can create great relationships, who are easy to work with, who create a sense of team.  And many of the owners want the process to be more fun and engaging.  Life’s too short.  That’s why we teach our clients how to create a positive emotional experience instead of transaction.  The book, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman tells us through a lot of research that people make buying decisions based more on emotion, memory, and ease than anything else.

If you are focused on the numbers, reducing margins and overhead, looking for technical solutions for a competitive advantage, then you may be looking in the wrong place.  Owners will choose you because they like you, trust you, and respect you.  They will choose you because of the way you made them feel during the last project.  I know what some of you are thinking.  It’s all about the low bidder.  That is rapidly changing.  Defaulting subcontractors and contractors, rising material prices, high risk, and low margins make everyone fight for every nickel.  And many of these projects are ending up in court.  The lawyers will be the only ones making money on those projects.

If you want to know more, contact my admin, Casey at Casey@brentdarnll.com and mention this blog.  She will send you the PDF version of the third edition of The People Profit Connection for free.

 


The Age of Relationships

March 5, 2015

relationships2

Pay attention.  We are coming to the end of the Information Age and have  now entered the Age of Relationships.  The signs are everywhere.  It permeates every industry.  It is part of the globalization of everything from business to governments to resources to weather to our very survival.  The younger generations were raised with collaboration and that sense of being interconnected.  Relationships give you motivation, inspiration, ideas, and encouragement.  Yet, in many industries, including the construction industry, this is something we have yet to embrace.  Perhaps it is because of the technical nature of the industry.  Perhaps it is because of the typical emotional intelligence profile of the people in the industry.  Empirically, relationships are not our best thing.  Every single group I have ever worked with over the past 12 years have the same profile.  The three lowest scores on the EQi are ALWAYS emotional self-awareness, empathy, and interpersonal relationships.  The three highest scores are ALWAYS assertiveness, independence, and self-regard.  This is a recipe for relationship disaster.  No wonder it’s such a hard business.

It’s time that we tackle these tough people issues and embrace these collaborative concepts.  Focusing on relationships is no longer touchy-feely.  Neuroscience is verifying many of these concepts of connection from a physiological standpoint.  We all have mirror neurons in our brains that mirror the emotions of the person sitting across from us.  They light up and connect us together whether we are aware of it or not.  We can no longer ignore these interpersonal connections.

In South Africa, they have a philosophy called Ubuntu.  It is a sense of being connected to everyone else on the planet.  When two people greet each other, the first person says, “I see you.”  The second person responds by saying, “I am here.”  There is real significance in that exchange.  Without the acknowledgement from the first person, the second person doesn’t even exist.  Imagine the power of that if you walked down the hallway and was pre-occupied with something and didn’t greet the other person.  What you would be saying is that they don’t exist.  I believe that this philosophy prevented South Africa from devolving into a bloody civil war after apartheid ended.  The black South Africans merely moved on and embraced the end of apartheid without retribution, without punishing the whites.  It is because they feel so interconnected.  They believe that if they harm someone else, they are harming themselves.

Can we move toward this sense of being connected?  Can we embrace this new way of collaborating?  Can we change the industry for the better by focusing on people and relationships?  Time will tell.  As Ben Franklin said, “We must hang together or we shall surely hang separately.”


Inspire Genius in Yourself and Innovation in Your Company

February 12, 2015

255117e2-b921-43bb-8b3c-ffdcb5551150

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” Albert Einstein

 

You only have two competitive advantages:  Your people and innovation.  And your people are the ones who will be coming up with innovative ways to do things.  Companies must innovate or they may not be around in the near future.  Companies like Google, Apple, Zappos, and Cisco all invest a lot of  time and energy on two things:  1.  Making sure that their people are engaged and excited about what they are doing.  and 2.  Creating an atmosphere of innovation.

How do they do this?  The first thing is to pay attention to the needs of the employees.  They continuously talk to employees about how they appreciate what they do.  Managers walk around and interact and get to know the employees and their passions, likes, dislikes, and motivations.  Secondly, they create a climate where innovation is rewarded.  There are no bad ideas.  Everything is considered.  They don’t negate new ideas.  They embrace everything as a possibility and discuss the options.  They create an environment where people can come together formally and informally to share ideas and thoughts on how business is done and how to make it better.   Employees are taught to silence that inner critic and mangers are taught to say “yes” and “thank you”  instead of “no, but” and “we tried that before and it didn’t work.”  Let me be clear.  “Yes, and . . . ” doesn’t mean that you agree with everything.  “Yes, and . . . ” creates a healthy dialogue of meaningful discussion.

What is the atmosphere at your company?  Is it open to new ideas and innovation?  We all must think very differently to survive in this economy.  Early designers of flying machines used movable wings because it emulated a bird in flight.  But it wasn’t until the paradigm was shifted with fixed wing aircraft that manned flight became possible.  There are artificial hearts that emulate a real heart with chambers and a flow of blood that causes a heartbeat.  But the latest innovation in that arena is an artificial heart with continuous flow.  There is no beat.  It is a simple pump that continuously flows the blood through your body.  This paradigm shift is leading to very efficient and simple artificial hearts.  But it took someone to look at the way things were being done and say, “What if?”

What is your expertise?  What are your people’s talents?  How can you leverage that in a business setting to create new revenue streams?  Don’t think about how you’ve always done business.  Think about what value you and your people bring and see if that is applicable in other areas.  Get a group discussion going and brainstorm this concept.  You never know where it will lead.


Managing Uncertainty on Construction Projects with Applied Improvisation

January 8, 2015

uncertainty

I just read a report prepared by McGraw Hill titled Managing Uncertainty and Expectations in Building Design and Construction.  It was very informative.  Check it out:

http://analyticsstore.construction.com/index.php/managing-uncertainty-and-expectations-in-building-design-and-construction-smartmarket-report.html

What struck me the most about this report is the approach to mitigate uncertainty.  These are the basics:

1.  Imperfection is inevitable.

2.  Change orders are not inherently bad.

3.  Looking deeper at Owner-driven causes of uncertainty.

4.  Start early, integrate quickly and work together as a whole so you know what you’re getting into.

5.  Communication, collaboration and integration: early, open and often.

6. Managing risk through contingencies.

7.  Benefits of technology.

Most of these could be a handbook for applied improvisation. Applied improvisation takes improvisational exercises and applies them to business, learning, leadership, and life.

Here are the basic rules of improvisation:

1.  Everything is an offer. Use whatever you have.   This relates directly to numbers 1, 2, and 6 above.

2.  Listen.  This relates directly to numbers 2 and 7 above.

3.  Make the other person look good.  This relates directly to numbers 3 and 5.

4.  Adopt a “Yes, and . . . ” attitude.  Always explore “What if . . . ”

5.  Learn to fail, learn, and be better.  This relates directly to numbers 1 and 2.

Applied improvisation is all about learning to deal with the uncertainties of life and work and can be directly related to the uncertainties on any construction project.

If your project team learned these basic techniques, they would be much better equipped to handle the uncertainty on their projects.  For more information, contact me.